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A comeback for made in the U.S.A.

Three years ago, Stephanie Sanzone a graduate student in environmental policy at George Mason University in Virginia, started the Web site to promote American products.

Since August, traffic on the site has quadrupled. Many of the new visitors say the recall of Chinese-made toys inspired them to act.

"I'm getting art these impassioned e-mails saying, 'I'm never going to buy anything made in China again,' and it really is from a different crowd," she says.

Revelations about read-paint-tainted toys and contaminated foods have led to fears that products made in China are unsafe. That, along with an interest in supporting local economies for both economic and environmental, reasons, has prompted a growing respect for the "Made in the U.S.A." label among many Americans.

Traditionally, it was mostly blue-collar union workers who paid attention to whether products from clothes to cars were made in the U.S.--either out of patriotism or concern that their jobs would move overseas. Not so anymore.

The new prestige of "Made in America" had an effect on Elizabeth Preston of Washington, D.C. Preston, 33, says she felt drawn to the "Handbuilt in the U.S.A." sticker on the $1,250 Trek road bike she bought for her boyfriend a few months ago.

"There's something about the idea of the workmanship and supporting the United States' economy," she says.

American Apparel, which puts the label "Made in Downtown LA" on every item, promotes its clothes as "sweatshop free." In the process, it has won the allegiance of young tastemakers.

The new interest in seeking out domestically made products is evident to traditionalists like John Ratzenberger. Best known as the actor who prayed Cliff on the TV show Cheers, Ratzenberger, who grew up in the factory town of Bridgeport, Conn., is the host of John Ratzenberger's Made in America, a five-year-old show on the Travel Channel that cerebrates craftsmanship at American factories.

"When we started doing this show, we were accused of being xenophobic flag-wavers," says Ratzenberger. "The more we did our show, the more people are looking around in their own towns, realizing once these companies close, it's going to affect the fabric of their communities."

"This," he says, "goes right across the political spectrum."

Nevertheless, it's not easy for Americans to get by on "Made in the U.S.A." alone. Sara Bongiorni wrote a book about her family's attempt to go an entire year without buying anything from China. "There's no way," she says, "you can live anywhere near a normal life without buying things from China."

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Publication:New York Times Upfront
Date:Oct 22, 2007
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